Communities United for Police Reform have begun a citywide effort to mobilize thousands of voters impacted by stop-and-frisk, calling on everyday people to get involved in action to end the controversial police practice and policy. On May 9, the grassroots organization will be hosting a mayoral forum on community safety at Riverside Church in Harlem.

After Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed to pitch a fit at a press conference last week complaining about police critics and lauding the value of the much-disputed stop-and-frisk tactic, Ken Thompson, former federal prosecutor and Brooklyn district attorney candidate stated, “By stubbornly defending stop-and-frisk abuses, in the face of mounting evidence of the need to significantly reform the practice, the mayor and District Attorney [Charles] Hynes are offering a false choice between public safety and civil rights–and pitting communities against law enforcement at the same time.

“As the father of a young son growing up in this city, the abuse and misuse of stop-and-frisk is not just an academic exercise to me, but something that is all too real,” he continued. “It’s time for new leadership to reform these practices for the sake of all our children and make our streets both safer and stronger.”

While the NYPD this week claimed that stop-and-frisks were down considerably, curiously, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly declared that folks should not make a correlation between stop-and-frisks and the crime rate.

Critics argue that the police policy does not reduce crime, but instead creates tension between the police department and the thousands of mostly Black and Latino men who are hauled up and pat down with pockets searched. With only a 10 percent arrest record, critics determine that the policy is ineffectual.

“Protecting New Yorkers and protecting their civil rights do not have to be competing interests,” state Sen. Eric Adams told the Amsterdam News. “We must give our law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe–but the abuse of stop-and-frisk is not useful in preventing crime. In fact, it sours communities against working with police — and that means crucial information isn’t shared to stop violence before it can occur.”

“Black and Latino youth are tired of being profiled and harassed by police who seem to view all of us as criminals,” said Aaron Hinton, a member of VOCAL-NY from Brooklyn who says he has been stopped and frisked at least 28 times. “We’re going to mobilize the youth vote because their voices need to be heard. We want these abuses to end. We want an administration and a police department that respects and protects the constitutional rights of all New Yorkers, whether they’re from East New York or the Upper East Side.”

Communities United for Police Reform has recently launched a nonpartisan citywide campaign to encourage the thousands of New Yorkers impacted by stop-and-frisk and other alleged discriminatory policing practices to become active in the 2013 elections. This week, the campaign began efforts to register thousands of new voters–many of whom have been directly affected by discriminatory policing–and they will be hosting a mayoral forum on community safety Thursday, May 9, which is co-presented by the New York Amsterdam News, Gay City News and the website Global Grind. The event takes place at Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive between 120th and 122nd streets) from 5 to 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public and will be moderated by the host of NY1 Noticias’ “Pura Politica,” Juan Manuel Benitez. It will focus on issues such as stop-and-frisk and other policing practices, policing in schools and gun violence.

“All New Yorkers deserve to be protected from both crime and being unjustly targeted by the police, but unfortunately, under the Bloomberg administration, at least hundreds of thousands of our neighbors have had their rights violated by those meant to protect them,” said Jose Lopez of Communities United for Police Reform. “We will be working to ensure New Yorkers impacted by these dangerously counterproductive policies know the positions of the candidates and make their voices heard on the critical issues of safety and discriminatory policing.”

The organization states that under the Bloomberg administration, the use of stop-and-frisk has increased by more than 600 percent, with over 5 million stops occurring throughout its tenure. Nearly nine in 10 of those stopped were neither arrested nor issued a summons, and nearly 90 percent of those stopped were Black or Latino. A disproportionate number of those stopped are young Black and Latino New Yorkers.

This same group quotes a New York City Campaign Finance Board report that cites studies that found younger voters were underrepresented in the electorate. They add that this is mainly because they have not been targeted as a powerful voting block.

Citing racial discrimination and unreasonable searches and seizures, the Communities United for Police Reform notes both the ongoing class action federal civil rights case challenging the constitutionality of Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk police policy, as well as the City Council considering the Community Safety Act bills to both ban racial profiling and bring on an inspector general to oversee the NYPD overseers.

“The most important thing we can do to change the direction of policing in New York City is to demand that our candidates for mayor explain to voters where they stand on vital criminal justice issues,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Impacted communities must not be overlooked.”

Thompson concluded, “The time has come to reform stop-and-frisk and end the false choice between public safety and civil rights. As the father of a young son and as a former federal prosecutor who has fought to protect crime victims, I welcome all efforts to educate the public on these often abused and misused practices for the sake of all of our children.”

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